<
>

Gordon says he prefers closing to setup

NEW YORK -- Besides a new pitching coach, the Yankees might
have to find a setup man, too.

As the AL East champions dealt with their latest postseason
disappointment, George Steinbrenner responded Thursday to Mel
Stottlemyre's departure, and Tom Gordon said he would consider
leaving the Bronx for the chance to be a closer again.

Changes are expected following New York's loss to the Angels in
the division series, and they started with the resignation of
Stottlemyre. The longtime pitching was critical of Steinbrenner's
treatment of manager Joe Torre on Wednesday, when he said he didn't
expect to return for an 11th season with the team.

Steinbrenner responded Thursday in a release issued by the team.

"Mel Stottlemyre will always be a Yankee. When I purchased the
ballclub more than 30 years ago, he was one of the teams true stars
and leaders and, during his 10 seasons as pitching coach, we won
six American League pennants and four World Championships. While it
is no secret that I can be a very difficult boss, Mel has always
conducted himself as a professional and a gentleman. I wish he and
[wife] Jean much success and happiness in the future."

Stottlemyre was at Yankee Stadium on Thursday but did not
address the media.

The new pitching coach might be working with a replacement for
Gordon, who is set to become a free agent.

Gordon has spent the last two years as the setup man for Mariano
Rivera, but made it clear Thursday that he would be interested in
returning to the role of closer.

"The Yankees will be first but I still would like to close,"
he said.

An All-Star in 2004, Gordon has pitched well in the regular
season but has been a disappointment in the playoffs. He had an
8.10 ERA during last year's AL Championship Series against Boston,
and allowed two runs in 2 1/3 innings in the loss to the Angels.
Torre bypassed him in Game 4, when he used Rivera for two innings
to finish with the Yankees facing elimination.

Gordon began his career as a starter before becoming a top
closer. He led the AL with 46 saves in 1998 for Boston, and said
saving games is something he wants to do again.

"I had a great time being a setup here," he said. "I enjoyed
every day with Mo. I still have in my mind that if I got an
opportunity again to close that I want to do that. Closing's always
going to be a first choice for me."

The Yankees also will have to make a decision on Tino Martinez.
A member of their four World Series championship teams from
1996-00, he returned to the team this season and hit .241 with 17
homers in a part-time role.

Martinez said Thursday at Yankee Stadium that he would like to
come back, but would understand if his role, too, is another one of
the changes.

"That's just the way the Yankees are," he said. "Everyone knows when you come to the Yankees things can change from year to
year. Everybody knows that."